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History of Plastic Surgery

The Rennaissance

Period of time: 1400 – 1600/1700

The cultural bridge between Middle ages and modern history. New thoughts in philosophy, architecture, warfare, medicine, and surgery spread from Southern Europe to Northern Europe. Discovery of America, Protestant Reformation, the Elizabethian period in the United Kingdom, knowledge on anatomy and surgery takes a fast leap forward.

1452-1519: Leonardo da Vinci, an extraordinary scientist, who pushed the boundaries in many different sciences and arts. He studied human anatomy, painted the “Vitruvian Man” and “Mona Lisa”1 He painted a child inside a womb and how to build a helicopter.2 In many ways the symbol of the Renaissance – The Rebirth of science and culture in Europe.

1490 – 1561: Lifespan of Thomas Vicary, an English physician, surgeon, and anatomist. The first master of the Company of Barber-Surgeons. 3 Today the Royal College of Surgeons still maintains an annual lecture in his honor. 4

1540: Formation of the ”Company of Barbers-Surgeons”, a union of the two guilds ”Company of Barbers” and ”Company of Surgeons” 5. The union lasted until 1745 where increasing professionalism led to the formation of the Royal College of Surgeons – not including the Barbers. The many wars in Europe advance knowledge of surgery. Barber-Surgeons save the lives of wounded soldiers in the field.

1543: Publication of “De humani corporis fabrica” – “The Fabric of the Human Body” by Andreas Vesalius (1514 – 1564). A Flemish anatomist and physician often referred to as the founder of modern anatomy due to his highly detailed work 6. He was also the first to describe mechanical ventilation.7

1578-1657: William Harvey, an English physician, with important contributions to anatomy and physiology. He described in detail the systemic circulation of blood being pumped to the brain and body by the heart.8


  1. Arasse Daniel. “leonardo da vinci”. 1998.
  2. Rumerman Judy. “early helicopter technology.” centennial of flight commission, 2003. n.d.
  3. Santoni P, Sykes P J. A history of plastic surgery. n.d.
  4. “thomas vicary” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/thomas_vicary n.d.
  5. “the worshipfull company of barbers”. history section. http://www.barberscompany.org. n.d.
  6.  Harcourt Glenn. “andreas vesalius and the anatomy of antique sculpture”. representations. 17: 28–61. n.d. Doi: 10.2307/3043792. ISSN 0734-6018.
  7. Vallejo-Manzur F. “the resuscitation greats. andreas vesalius, the concept of an artificial airway.” resuscitation” 56:3-7. (2003). n.d.
  8. Haddad SI Khairallah. “a forgotten chapter in the history of the circulation of the blood”. ann. surg. 104: 1–8. pmc 1390327 . pmid 17856795. 1936.

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